The EP Signals, Calls and Marches suggested that Mission of Burma had the talent and vision to become one of America's great rock bands; the subsequent album Vs. proved beyond a doubt that the group had arrived and was fully realizing its potential.
MOB's blend of punk rock fury and post-collegiate musical smarts had been honed to a razor-sharp point by the time Vs. was recorded, and they had fully worked through the British influences that occasionally surfaced on Signals, Calls and Marches, maturing into a band whose sound was as distinctive as anyone of its generation. Roger Miller's guitar work had gained greater depth and confidence in the year since Signals, the rhythm section of Clint Conley and Peter Prescott epitomized both strength and intelligence, and MOB were exploring trickier structures and more dramatic use of dynamics this time out; the subtle tension of "Trem Two" and the powerful midtempo angst of "Einstein's Day" were a genuine step forward in the group's development, while "The Ballad of Johnny Burma," "Fun World," and "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate" made it clear that the band had lost none of its rib-cracking impact along the way.
It's daunting to imagine just how far Mission of Burma could have taken its music had Roger Miller's hearing problems not caused the band to break up the following year, but regardless of lost potential, very few American bands from the 1980s released an album as ambitious or as powerful as Vs., and it still sounds like a classic. Rykodisc's remastered 1997 reissue sounds terrific and adds four solid bonus tracks.